Follow these steps to help organize your pre-writing into a draft.  [adapted from the St. Martin's Guide to Writing].

Developing your argument

I. Developing reasons

  1. Write down every possible reason you can think of to support your position.  You might set it up like this:  I believe X because. . .Review the list with your readers in mind and pick the strongest ones (three or four).

  2. Write for about five minutes on each reason--explain the reason and provide support for it.  Take note of spots where you need to get more info/evidence to support your position.

II. Developing counterarguments

III. Argumentative Strategy

  1. Write for five minutes on your overall argumentative strategy.  How can all the information that you’ve put together work together for an effective argument?

  2. Write a thesis paragraph in which you state your position, give the basic reasons for support, and list the counterarguments.  Tell your readers what you want them to think about the issue and why.  This will be clunky now, but as you revise, you will refine it.


I. See what you have: Review all the pre-writing that you've done.  You should have several pages of material.  If it looks skimpy, you should try again.  If you've tried and still can't come up with more information, you should consult me about your topic.  You might need do come up with a new one.

II.  Setting Goals:  Consider the following questions to help set realistic goals.

Your purpose and audience

  1. What can I realistically hope to accomplish by addressing these readers?  Am I trying to reinforce their views or change their minds?

  2. What values can I draw on to appeal to these readers? What is important to them?

The beginning

  1. How can I get readers attention from the start and involve them in the argument without putting them on the defensive?

  2. How much do I need to explain about the issue at the beginning?  Do I need to focus on the issue's relevance?

  3. Do I need to define terms or differentiate my view from commonly held views?

Your argument

  1. How should I sequence my reasons?  strongest to weakest? weakest to strongest? most to least predictable? simplest to complex? Is there a logical, natural sequence?

  2. Which objections to my argument and which arguments for other points of view should I mention?  Should I engulf and devour? How can I deal with opposing viewpoints and where should I do this?  at the very beginning? when they are most likely to occur to a reader? at the very end?

The ending

III. Outlining:  Make an outline for how you want to organize your essay.  Remember, there is no one correct way to organize an essay, but try to have reasons for why you organize it the way you do.  You'll be able to change the order later if this plan doesn't work out. 

IV. Drafting:  Using your outline and goals, begin drafting your essay.  As you write, keep your audience and purpose in mind.  You may need to diverge from your outline as you write--this is okay.  Sometimes your essay will take on a logical life of its own.